Part of USS Sarek: Lies I Loved and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

Lies I Loved – 7

USS Sarek saucer section, Captain's Ready Room
November 2400
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Stepping into the Captain’s Ready Room, Kellin Rayco felt like he was walking into a pocket dimension.  As soon as the doors closed behind him, he waited for his ears to pop.  The size of the compartment was far grander than Taes’ ready room on their last Springfield-class starship and yet the decor and furnishings were far more minimalist in design.  Adding to the surreal experience of the room was a noise-cancelling field that nearly silenced the hum of the engines and life support system.  Furthermore, every bulkhead and deck plate was painted a matte bubble-gum pink.  This candy-coated wonderland created a visual separation from the drudgery that starship duty could become day in and day out.

Kellin normally bounded into Taes’ ready room full of small talk and gossip, but he didn’t have space for all of that in his head on this day.  His arms were crossed over his chest and he couldn’t look at Taes for too long.  His every mental process was bound up in a single question.  Moments like this were one of the rare, rare times the Trill wished he had the greater mental acuity he imagined might come from being joined to a symbiont.  Striding farther into the room, he found Taes meditating on a mat and he forgot any of the pleasantries that were normally so important to him.

“Science Officer Flavia, and her team, are on permanent assignment here from the Romulan Free State,” Kellin said.  The tall man stood a little taller, reciting this fact from memory as if he were presenting a hypothesis in an academy science class.  “Starfleet is committed to this great experiment.  If we can learn to work jointly in our mission of exploration, we may find a path forward to meaningful diplomatic relations with the Free State.”

Stretched out on the floor, Taes nimbly shifted into an upright sitting position.  Her eyes studied Kellin.  The quality of her gaze seemed to beckon his eye contact.  Taes nodded at his statement and she said nothing else, offering him the space to continue.  When they had first embarked on their tour aboard the USS Sarek, Taes had made it clear to Kellin and the senior staff: her ready room was designed to be a retreat from the clamour of the main bridge.  Transactional duties –such as performance reviews or delivering orders– were strictly forbidden in the ready room.  This space was meant for reflection, meditation and philosophical debate, and he could feel her holding that space for him now.

“It’s no real secret,” Kellin went on, “the Romulan Free State is being empowered and propped up by the Tal Shiar.  In the heyday of the Romulan Star Empire, the Tal Shiar was an intelligence agency, but by the end of the empire, they were thugs.  Secret police.”

Kellin unfolded his arms.  He shrugged helplessly.  And now he said it: “Does that mean Flavia is a Tal Shiar secret agent?”

Taes looked up at Kellin with a placid expression.  She offered no shock or awe at the bluntness of his question.  She simply nodded at him, slightly, in a sign of acknowledgement.

“This is where we find ourselves,” Taes said, and she sounded resigned to that fact.  “We have no way to know.  Flavia might fool us into believing she’s a Tal Shiar agent for a giggle.  Or she might do the opposite for the same reason.”

Huffing out a frustrated breath, Kellin sat down on the deck, leaving some space between himself and Taes.  He crossed his legs at the ankles and he attempted to put himself into Taes’ meditative posture.  Perhaps a calm exterior could bring him a calm interior, he hoped.

“Taes, I need to know,” Kellin asked, “can I trust Flavia?”

That was when Taes cracked.  She broke into a fit of laughter that wracked her body so suddenly, she practically doubled over on herself.  Taes breathed in through her nose to calm herself and she sat upright.

“Absolutely not,” Taes answered.

Kellin sighed and he frowned at Taes.  He said, “If I can’t trust her, that means I have to assign security guards to follow her discreetly.”

Taes raised an eyebrow at Kellin in a sharp expression of caution.  Shaking her head, Taes replied, “That wasn’t in our agreement with the Free State.”

Shaking his head in confusion, Kellin cringed at Taes.  Her logic was starting to sound as labyrinthine as Flavia’s own.  He huffed out another breath he’d been holding.

“Does that mean you’re ordering me to trust her?” Kellin asked.

“Absolutely not,” Taes said again, but this time with far more gravity.

Kellin vocalized a couple of indistinct syllables as he struggled to find the words he was mentally reaching for.  His hands balled into fists.  He hoped Taes would say more, but she didn’t.  

After three attempts, Kellin managed to say, “That makes no sense.”

“Two things can be true,” Taes sagely said.  “Even in opposition.”

“No,” Kellin responded awfully quickly.  The confusion and sputtering were gone from his mien.  “I don’t trust her!  Any other truth is a lie; either it’s a lie to you or a lie to myself.  I did, in fact, read the provisional treaty with the Free State too.  Starfleet has ordered me to trust Flavia, even if I believe I should not.  I don’t even have access to the internal sensors in the Romulan laboratories or quarters unless the computer detects a security risk.”  As outlined in the treaty, such risks included damage to life support, weapons fire, open flames, or unregistered communications transmissions.

“Starfleet cannot issue orders on your beliefs,” Taes said in absolute certainty.  “I can override the internal sensor lockouts if I judge it necessary.  But the trust I’m putting in Flavia is not far off from the trust I put in all of my crew.  As a captain, there’s only one of me.  I don’t have the luxury of watching the entire crew following my orders.  I must trust in all of you.  Trust and, at times, verify.”

Kellin shook his head, slumping forward until his elbows were on the floor and his chin was in his hands.  He groaned very softly in discouragement, even though the stretch felt incredibly satisfying.

“I don’t know how to do that,” Kellin said in a saddened sing-song.  “I asked T’Kaal all about Romulan culture, but Starfleet’s understandings are contradictory.  She didn’t say much about trust.  It all gives me a headache.”

In a consoling tone, Taes said, “Forget about Romulan culture for today.  Focus on the culture you’re creating as this ship’s second officer.  The most impressive leaders in Starfleet are capable of inspiring loyalty.  Their crews desire to do the right thing for their leaders, even when their leaders aren’t looking.  You’ve been learning that for yourself with the security team; you run that department like a pack of equals.”

Taes shrugged. “You’ve got to invite Flavia to join your pack.”

 


 

While Captain Taes and the saucer section remained in orbit of Burleigh Minor, the Sarek’s stardrive section raced towards the Kadi home colony at its best cruising speed.  As Commander Elbon prepared for his diplomatic side quest with the Holy Goddess Mother’s Great Kadi State, Lieutenant Yuulik could not muster a single erg of energy to support him.  Taes had only thought Yuulik worthy to serve as the crew’s Assistant Chief Science Officer and Yuulik supposed that meant Elbon could find someone more important to be his research assistant.

Ever since her face-to-face conversation with Leander Nune, it took great effort for Yuulik to think of much else but the strange spell the blood dilithium had cast over him.  In one moment Nune would come across as cogent, and in the next, he was overcome with fits and fancies that seemed otherwise unknowable to Yuulik.  In fact, Yuulik couldn’t quite guess which side of Nune’s personality was responsible for his profane design of a subspace trumpet to amplify the mystery song of blood dilithium.  Was that coming from Nune’s own creative mind or was that exactly the reason the blood dilithium was exerting its influence over him?  She had gone to bed, the night before, trying to imagine exactly what Nune could hear the blood dilithium saying to him.  By the time her alarm chimed the next morning, Yuulik took notice that she hadn’t slept for a minute.

While clutching a PADD in her right hand, she watched a video playback of the security footage in Nune’s brig cell from the night before.  A holographic screen floated in front of her, and she scrubbed back and forth through the timeline, trying to make sense of when Nune was awake, when he was asleep, and when he was sleepwalking.  Sickbay had slightly increased Nune’s level of sedation.  It looked as though he was struggling to keep his head upright at times, and yet he insisted on standing whenever he was awake.  He only availed himself of the bunk in his cell when he was unconscious.

Yuulik fast-forwarded to Science Officer Dolan’s last interview with Nune.  Dolan had asked probing questions about Nune’s latest theory to bombard blood dilithium with a modified resonance burst.  Nune had read a duty log from the USS Voyager, which had used a resonance burst to break through a hallucinogenic psionic field.  He theorized if a resonance burst could have a tangible impact on psionic energy, it would cause some measurable change in the psionic transmissions of blood dilithium.

Dragging the video backwards again, Yuulik found another segment that had caught her attention in the sonic shower, earlier that morning.  She pinched at the interface to zoom in on Nune’s lips.  She watched the same five seconds over and over again.

“Is he saying help,” Yuulik asked herself, “or Hell?”

“I have a better question.”

And then Yuulik yelped and dropped her PADD, because she heard the voice of Ensign Dolan from directly behind her, rather than coming from the recording on her PADD.

“Are you going to order something?” Dolan asked her pointedly.

Without the video recordings floating in her face, Yuulik took stock of her surroundings.  She was standing in one of the smaller mess halls, pacing back and forth in front of the replicators.  A line had formed behind her and Yuulik had truly no perception of how long ago she had walked to the mess hall, nor for how long she had been blocking the two replicator alcoves from the other patrons.

Startled, and frustrated by her lack of progress, Yuulik popped off to say, “You’re stupid for not standing up for yourself sooner.”

Dolan rolled his eyes at her.  “Honestly, calm down, lieutenant.”

“No!” Yuulik said.  She stomped one foot (and only later discovered she had smashed her PADD).  “This is important work!  There are ships from countless governments and corporations swarming over the Gradin Belt to gobble up blood dilithium.  Starfleet officers are risking their precious lives to rescue the foolish ones who have been waylaid by spatial anomalies and the disastrous health effects of the dilithium itself.  If we’re not vigilant and brilliant, someone is going to turn blood dilithium into a weapon!”

“No, I know, lieutenant,” Dolan said blandly.  “I hate to see Nune that way too.  I just want some eggs this morning.  Helps me think.”

Comments

  • I gotta say, I didn't expect Taes's ready room to be this... pink. I love it, and the way she's using the office for different work to the bureaucracy of command. It helps make her perhaps the most distinctive of captains in the fleet, frankly! Oh, poor sweet Kellin asking if he can trust Flavia, and the brilliance of Taes's reply. His black-and-white view is so very sweet, but always remains consistent and never makes him look STUPID. And that even Taes, for all of her recorded dislike of Flavia, encourages him to inspire trust rather than stoking suspicion, both keeps this wonderfully Starfleet - and makes us, of course, wonder how we ended up with the prologue! And onto Yuulik, Lovecraftian investigator - oh no. 'Is he saying help or hell?' BIG Liberate Me/Libera Te Tutemet vibes here. Let's hope she's not going somewhere she doesn't need eyes to see. But above all, this last exchange between her and Dolan is PERFECT.

    November 7, 2022
  • Oh man! Yuulik's outburst at the end is so her! And all because poor Dolan just wants his breakfast. Doesn't he know there's a crisis at hand? He does? Does he still want breakfast?! I'm loving just how single-minded Yuulik gets, how her focus and desire to solve a problem completely overshadows everything and becomes her sole purpose at that moment. She's concerned, she's worried for her friend, she's trying to figure out what he's seeing or thinking and in that completely obsessed to the point she doesn't even see the breakfast line. She's just a delight to read and loving it!

    November 11, 2022
  • The trust issues towards Flavia are a thing I was waiting for. Even thought I am totally on her camp and sees that she has heart for what she does. But all in all the Free State is a gamble and the issues of trusting someone from their to serve on a Starfleet ship can be an issue for someone at security. The post in all is such a great weaved in story that flows into each other, Keep it up!

    November 14, 2022
  • Seeing the moment between both Taes and Kellin in her ready room as she is trying to meditate is great. Kellin's questions are valid and the way he gets confused by the Captain's responses is priceless. I also enjoyed the moment where Taes just busts out laughing. For a security officer, it can be hard to 'trust' those that have been an enemy for so long and are known for their deceitfulness is hard to do, but Taes's response “You’ve got to invite Flavia to join your pack.” was a great response and basically one way to keep an eye on her without really keeping an eye on her. Now, I enjoyed Yuulik's outburst at the end and how easily she is so focused on one thing that everything else doesn't matter and she lets it be known. Poor Dolan he just wants his eggs!

    November 18, 2022